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The Lawrence Children: Chapter 4

 Never Know, Noah

Noah laughed as he threw a handful of loose dirt at Vern.
“Stop that,” Vern said acting like he were annoyed.
Noah dropped the remainder of dirt back onto the ground and wiped his dirty hands on his already dirty pants.
“Why don't you do what you planned to do and help me haul this ore out?”
Noah smiled. It was not often he was able to help Vern in the mines. There was school. And homework. And chores. At least it was a warmer day and there wasn't much wind.
But today he was able to help. Not that he enjoyed it. Noah would have much preferred to study. He felt slightly guilty at that thought, thinking how Vern hardly had time for anything but the mines. But then Vern never did want to do much else.
Vern worked full time in the mines so Noah would not have to skip school. And for the most part it seemed they were both content with this arrangement.
He took a hold of the wheel barrow. “You hear about David's uncles?”
Vern stood up straight by where he was shoveling ore into the wheelbarrow, “No, I don't hear much town news since I stopped going to school.”
Noah continued as if that were unimportant, “Two uncles came. I guess they used to live back here years ago but moved off for some reason. Even heard they used to be friends of Alex Norris.”
“Doesn't surprise me. David's family has always been up there in the world.”
“Anyways, they were hired at the Boaz.”
“Oh, neat.” Vern said. But his voice held no actual awe. The Boaz and Revenue mines were always looking for men.
Noah was bored. Well, not really bored. Just done working in this mine. How many wheelbarrows would there be to haul out? This one was almost full.
Noah tipped it up, balancing it on it's one wheel as he maneuvered it out of the tunnel. Knowing Vern the next one would almost be ready by the time Noah had this wheelbarrow emptied and returned.

Vern and Noah brought their lunch outside the mine entrance. The ground was covered in snow, but there was no wind. The sun shone through a thin layer of clouds, causing the weather to feel a little warmer than usual.
Vern laid everything out, and started to dish it up. As Vern did this Noah looked up as he heard a sound. “Look! Everyone is coming,” Noah said.
Vern looked, “Sure enough, Noah.”
Lucy walked toward them, Julie in her hands, Fred-O running in front of Lucy and carrying a large canteen. Ann held a large pail.
Noah jumped up and went to see what Fred-O had.
“Mary and Tom brought milk!” Fred-O announced.
Noah smiled. Part of him was sad to miss them – but the rest of him was excited about the milk.
“I heated it up,” Lucy smiled. “And added a little maple syrup and coffee. Thought you boys might like a treat.”
Lucy handed Julie to Vern as she spread a blanket on the ground. “Make sure to keep your wet feet on the edge of the blanket,” Lucy warned as the children started crowding on.
Noah took the milk from Fred-O and started to unscrew the lid. His cold stomach would feel so much better with this!
“I brought the Bible, too.” Lucy said handing Father's large Bible to Vern.
Noah stopped what he was doing and glanced back and forth from Vern to Lucy to Father's Bible.
Vern nodded and took the Bible, “I'll read some scripture before we eat.”
Noah made himself set the milk down – between his legs – and watched as Vern opened the Bible.
It had been so long since he'd seen that Bible opened. Father used to open it every night.
Noah looked hard at the canteen of milk, so he wouldn't cry.
Noah had a hard time following along with Vern's words as he imagined father reading. It was some Psalm – about a deer panting for water. About needing something and being so alone and desolate. But then finding hope in God.
It was beautiful.
Noah forgot about the milk.
Vern closed the Bible, and bowed his head. Noah did the same along with the rest of his siblings and Vern prayed, “Thank you, Father in heaven for your word to comfort our minds and souls just as much as Lucy's food will do to our bodies. We pray a blessing over our little family, and over this food. Be with us, and guide us. Amen.”
Noah smiled, a small tear escaping. But it was so small and all alone he didn't mind – no one would notice.
“Sing!” Julie shouted, not seeming to notice everyone else's silent drawn faces. The rest of the children smiled – normally they would have laughed. But they weren't quite ready for that.
“Sing?” Vern asked.
“I think she thinks we have to sing a song after reading the Bible,” Noah explained.
Lucy nodded to Vern, then turned to Julie, “What song should we sing?”
“Fred-O!” Julie said.
Fred-O grinned, “Yes, I like that song.”
Lucy started the song. Julie and Fred-O joined in at once, with Noah and Vern following. Finally even Ann joined.

Oh, Fred-O, the brave man,
Had a plan one day.
To town he made his stand
All in God's own way.

Oh, Fred-O,
Don't Go!
That fateful day away.
Oh, Fred-O,
Come home!
Back to loved ones to stay.

Fred-O smiled as he stood
Long ago that day.
All his words sounded good -
What more could he say?

Despite poor Fred-O's words
None would know justice.
And all the men drew swords,
Inviting chaos.

Even as they killed him
His words would not go.
It was God who filled him
And said, “Speak, Fred-O!”

They buried him in autumn
Yet couldn't hide their guilt.
Fred-O spoke what was so -
Who lives half as good?

Once they finished singing, Noah felt a strange sense of happiness – singing must have done it to him. He never liked this song much – it was too sad. Yet at this moment it felt happy. Because it stirred up memories of how Father would sing it to Fred-O over and over, and how Fred-O would ask to hear it, “Just one more time!”
Vern set the Bible on the blanket. Noah wanted to touch it so bad. He didn't notice when Vern took the canteen of milk from between Noah's legs.
Noah grabbed the Bible and started flipping through the pages. No one said anything to stop him, so he slowly continued doing so.
The pages were old – this Bible had been Grandpa's. Noah knew this because of the list of names on the inside of the cover and Grandpa's signature. And Father had told him so, too.
Roald Lawrence, married to Elise Richardson. Children: Frederic, Gregory, and Sarah.
Noah had never known his uncles and aunts, or even his grandparents. The rest of the Lawrence clan had moved back north after Roald died. Except their father – who had taken over the mines.
Noah flipped to the back of the book. A small piece of paper was folded up, neatly.
“Want some milk?” Noah was jerked back to the reality of his cold surroundings by Lucy holding out a small jar of milk to him.
Everyone else already held their cups of milk, some of them half empty now. Lucy had already passed around the food.
“Yes! Thanks.” Noah took the glass of milk along with his lunch. He then showed the others the piece of paper. “This was in the back of the Bible.”
Vern took the paper and opened it, “Well, what do you know.”
“What is it?” Several asked at once.
“It is Grandpa's map – the one to his treasure.”

Noah moved closer to Vern as did everyone else. He made sure to hold his cup of warm milk carefully as he looked over Vern's shoulder.
“It's actually a map.” Noah felt a little dumb saying this. He had seen it so many times before, but he felt as if he were seeing it now for the first time.
“It appears to be leading away from the old shack,” Vern said.
“What old shack?” Ann asked. She stood on her toes as she peered down over Noah and Vern.
“Grandpa's old cabin,” Noah answered for Vern. “He used to live there with Grandma when he first claimed the mines. So, it was just a quick shanty he built.”
“How do you know that?” Ann asked.
Noah took her meaning – he was younger, but he wasn't surprised that Ann didn't know. They didn't usually play where the shack was located. He smiled, “Father told me one time when we passed it to trap.”
“Oh,” Ann turned back to the map.
“It looks simple enough,” Noah said. “I don't understand why Father couldn't figure it out.”
Noah was vaguely aware that he had just spoken of his father without needing to cry.
Vern turned the map around. The other side was blank. It was a simple map. It started with a small box labeled shack. Trees were shown about it. And then it there was a straight line that moved first sharply left, then right, then left again before continuing off straight. It showed several other broken lines that lead to nowhere. The connected line started from the cabin and ended at another x marked treasure.
“The line is very straight,” Vern said. “which is odd. It looks like a map a child would draw – no clues, no words except the words describing the beginning and ending marks. Not even a number of steps or anything.”
Noah suddenly realized just why the map was hard to understand.
“We should try to find the treasure,” Fred-O said.
“Of course,” Lucy laughed.
Vern said, “We will have to wait until spring when the snow is melted and we can see the ground – there may be a path.”
Noah sighed, “But what if spring never comes?”
“What in the world do you mean?” Lucy asked sharply.
“Barbara told me that Jesus is returning on New Year's.” Noah answered.
Ann nodded, “I heard her say it, too. And her father is a preacher, so she thinks she knows for sure.”
Vern laughed, “Well, he must have not read his Bible well – don't you remember the verse, 'Not even the angels know the time of the return of the son of man.' And that's just one of many such references.”
“What makes her father think that?” Lucy asked.
“The turn of the century,” Noah replied.
“1900 will just be another year. Just you see.” Vern said.
“Unless He actually does come back,” Lucy teased.
“Oh, of course He could. But in all reality it will be of His own free will – not of anything that Barbara's father says. Preacher or not.”
Noah smiled. He wasn't sure which he'd rather. Jesus returning would mean that he would get to see his parents again soon. And New Year's wasn't that far away.
But finding Grandpa's treasure – and maybe even solving the murder of Alex Norris. That would be fun.
If God decided to send His son, Noah thought, He'd be perfectly happy with that. But at the same time Noah was finally thinking life might not be that bad after all. They were doing very well, their shrunken family. And things could only get better.
After everyone had eaten enough, Lucy rose up shattering into Noah's thoughts, “I suppose we all should return to the house. Let the boys get back to work.”
Everyone pulled away from Vern as he folded the map back up and put it into the Bible.
“Do you think we will be able to discover the treasure? When not even Father could?” Noah asked Vern as they walked back into the tunnels.
“You never know, Noah.”
Noah let his shoulders sag.
Vern pumped Noah's shoulder, “But I think there being so many of us will help a ton. We have a good chance.”
“Good. Maybe we can even find out what happened to Alex Norris.”
“That would most certainly be something.” Vern smiled.
Noah was happy inside. It made him feel warm, warmer than even the milk had made him feel. He was excited for spring to come.

Make sure to return the second Monday of next month for the next installment of the Lawrence Children! 

Father Tells a Story posted 10/9/17
No More Good-nights posted 11/13/17
Lucy Learns to Live posted 12/11/17
Never Know, Noah posted 1/8/18
Grandpa's Mystery  posted 2/12/18
Ann Finds Answers posted 3/12/18
Vern Lead's An Adventure posted 4/9/18
A Friendly Visit posted 5/14/18
A Real Clue? posted 6/11/18
Fred-O is Frightened  posted 7/9/18
Good Job, Julie! posted 8/13/18
Hello, Life posted 9/10/18


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